Dallas Friday night, Coldplay began at the end.
More precisely, the convergence of a confetti deluge, enormous balloons, columns of smoke, blitz of lasers and thousands of vivid, blinking lights adorning the wrists (a LED-powered freebie known as a "xyloband") of a sold-out American Airlines Center felt like the climax of an epic performance, the culmination of two hours' worth of music and sensory overload.
Instead, Chris Martin and his Grammy-winning, multi-platinum bandmates were just on the second song of the night. They were only getting warmed up. (The band plays the final, likewise sold-out installment of its two-night stand Saturday.)
What was most apparent, aside from the fact that Coldplay now has a confetti budget to rival that of the Flaming Lips, was this veteran band is finally displaying a brashness only previously suggested. Martin and his collaborators have always been the aw-shucks sort of group, routinely selling out global, years-long tours, but laying on the self-deprecation thick in concert.
No more of that -- touring behind last year's dreadfully titled Mylo Xyloto, Coldplay brought an impressive confidence to the stage Friday, ripping through a 100-minute set and scarcely pausing for breath.
Mixing the new material with staples like In My Place and Yellow, while also taking care to put fresh spins on tracks like God Put a Smile Upon Your Face, Coldplay managed the rare feat of playing nearly all of its latest album while never letting momentum slip. Part of that is due to the ADD nature of the night -- the band had crammed screens or inflatable widgets in seemingly every corner of the AAC -- and much of it is because Martin continues to be one of rock music's most charismatic frontmen, bouncing around like a kid making his dreams reality.
The trade-off, of course, is that Coldplay's more tender, intimate moments are scrapped in favor of excess. When the band did stop down to play something less outsized, like The Scientist or Warning Sign, the intensity continued to smolder, rendering even the heartfelt in shades of swagger.
Not that Coldplay's embrace of its status as bona fide superstars is a bad thing -- I'll take exuberance over timidity any day in an arena show -- but in doing so, it's erasing part of what made the band stand out to begin with.
But then, a good 15 years has passed since Coldplay first formed, and they've evolved from shameless Radiohead recyclers into something more grand, more globally minded and more interesting. The over-the-top spectacle is earned, grounded in songs rich in feeling and melody. Perhaps the reverse engineering of its show is instructive: Coldplay might just be warming up.
Openers Wolf Gang and Robyn neatly bridged the headliner's past and present. London quintet Wolf Gang anchored the "past" end of things, full of brio for a baby band and delivering chiming songs underpinned with synthesizers and a dash of style swiped from the Killers. Indefatigable Swedish dynamo Robyn continues to make the rounds of American venues, doling out smart, highly danceable sets steeped in electronica and just enough quirk to keep arriving audience members from heading back out for another order of nachos and beer. It remains an utter mystery to me why Robyn has such difficulty breaking through in America, but her fantastic songs set the mood in style.